Message to Turkey?: Russia, U.S. warn ‘external players’ against interfering in Karabakh

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned “external players” against interfering in the Nagorno-Karabakh issue as they discussed the latest developments in the conflict zone in a phone conversation on Monday.

The top diplomats reiterated their governments’ appeal for an immediate cessation of hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said Lavrov and Kerry voiced “serious concern at the escalation of the confrontation” and agreed that “Russia, the United States and France, as co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, will step up their efforts to foster a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.”

“Sergey Lavrov and John Kerry condemned attempts by certain ‘external players’ to whip up the standoff around Karabakh,” it added without elaborating.

Lavrov also spoke about forces “keen to seriously complicate the settlement process” as he gave a press conference in Moscow earlier that day. He did not give names, but many analysts in Armenia and outside interpret it as a message primarily addressed to Turkey, with which Russia has been on loggerheads since last year over the situation in Syria.

Azerbaijan and its ally Turkey have repeatedly criticized the United States, Russian and French mediators for purportedly siding with Armenia in their activities as go-betweens in the Karabakh conflict settlement.

Meanwhile, loss of life continued in the conflict zone late on Monday as the sides issued conflicting reports about the situation on the ground.
In particular, Nagorno-Karabakh’s Defense Ministry denied that Azerbaijan captured the strategically important village of Mataghis in the northeast of Karabakh.

The OSCE Minsk Group is meeting in Vienna, Austria, on April 5 to discuss the latest developments in Nagorno-Karabakh.

It also emerged on Monday that the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan will attend a meeting of Commonwealth of Independent States (former Soviet countries) foreign ministers that is scheduled to be held in Moscow, Russia, on April 8. It is not yet clear whether the top diplomats plan a separate meeting to discuss the latest upsurge in violence in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone.